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And the binge-drinking capital of Europe is ...

Posted by Christopher Shea  April 27, 2010 03:34 PM

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The Irish Times recently trumpeted the following finding from a European Commission report on attitudes toward alcohol: "Irish Binge Drinking 'Highest in EU.'" That may be a dubious honor but it is not, it turns out, an uncontested one. Reading the same study, the Daily Telegraph, in London, proclaimed Britain "the 'Binge-Drinking Capital of Europe.'"

Who's right? P. O'Neill, at Best of Both Worlds, a blogger interested both in social science and Irish affairs, dug into the data. It's safe to say that both countries have lived up to (or down to) the stereotypes. Binge drinking is defined as consuming five or more drinks in one sitting. By that definition, Ireland is, indeed, on top: Of Irish respondents to an E.U. survey who said they had drunk alcohol within the last month, 19 percent said they tended to have 5 to 6 drinks each time. An additional 5 percent said they had 7 to 9 drinks per sitting, while 2 percent had 10 or more. Overall, 26 percent of Irish drinkers said they had binged in the last month.
That's a smidge higher than the U.K.'s figure, where 24 percent of drinkers binged over the same period. But the British did beat the Irish at the upper end of the bell curve: Fully 6 percent of drinkers in the U.K. said they typically had 10 or more rounds per outing.

Both countries have comparable numbers of regular drinkers.

The study shows that European countries vary widely, and fascinatingly, in their consumption patterns: Italy, for instance, has among the highest rates of daily drinking: One-quarter of its drinkers drink daily. Yet 93 percent of drinkers limit themselves to two drinks or less.

(Denis Boyles, of the National Review, first noticed the dueling headlines.)
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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


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